ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Pakistan: Frying Pan and the Fire

The ability of the political opposition (Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan) and the higher echelons of the state's military, judicial and civil bureaucracies to act in concert is quite largely due to their shared regional and ethnic power bases. It is the relatively more developed and urbanised region of north-central Punjab, traditionally a core political region of the country, that is now the main base of the opposition. But if the future of parliamentary democracy in Pakistan seems more certain now than at any time in recent history it is because the centre of political gravity has moved down to the provinces and regions, and at the local level it is the Pakistan People's Party that has a strong base.

Karachi Battles

Political and ethnic violence in Karachi has emerged as a third major source of the current internal conflict in Pakistan after the jihadist insurgency and the nationalist uprising in Balochistan. The violence could be reduced through negotiation between political parties which have much to lose from its continuation or further escalation.

Social Protection in Pakistan: In the Midst of a Paradigm Shift?

There was a severalfold increase in fiscal allocations for social protection in Pakistan in 2008. This coincided with a change of government and heightened public concerns about the adverse impact on poverty of the economic crisis. Federal as well as provincial governments demonstrated an unprecedented level of commitment to cash transfers and other programmes aimed specifically at the poor and vulnerable. The federal government's Benazir Income Support Programme was protected by law, and became the first targeted cash transfer programme to reach up to 7% of all households. It is too soon to say that social protection in Pakistan has finally turned a corner since the future course of public policy is vulnerable to political turbulence. This paper argues for measures that will signal that there has indeed been an irreversible paradigm shift.

Democracy in Pakistan: The Chasm

With the passing of the 18th constitutional amendment in April 2010, democratic Pakistan's journey for political stability came within leaping distance of its destination, just as the chasm that needed to be crossed became deeper. The probability of success became greater as did the cost of failure. The process leading up to the passage of the amendment revealed as yet hidden sources of resilience within a polity that is reviled at home by an entrenched state apparatus and dismissed abroad as weak and ineffectual.

Democracy Does the Heavy Lifting, Handle It with Care

The right to vote has been a leading factor in an otherwise desultory history of post-colonial state-building in Pakistan. This insight, however, comes with twist-in-the-tail implications for the theory and practice of democracy in the country.

Judicial Activism vs Democratic Consolidation in Pakistan

In a ruling hailed as historic by his supporters, the restored chief justice of Pakistan struck down as unconstitutional some of the actions taken by former President Pervez Musharraf. A reading of the verdict and of the politics leading up to it suggests that the judges are on a collision course with the elected government, and that retrospective judicial vigilance may hinder rather than aid democratic consolidation. More importantly, it is not clear how the judges and their supporters plan to use the power they are busy acquiring with respect to the key challenges facing state and society.

Pakistan: Chaos unto Order?

The Pakistani military finally appears to have embraced the war against jihadi militancy as its own. If so, an important shift in perception and policy has taken place. Past experience, however, demands caution before coming to any hasty conclusions. Things are chaotic enough in any case, for there to be sufficient material evidence to support optimists and sceptics alike. It is possible, nevertheless, to post milestones that will need to be crossed if we are to decisively move in the right direction.

One Step Forward, Marching to the Brink

While much of Pakistan's "civil society" celebrated a famous victory in the restoration of judges sacked by Pervez Musharraf in November 2007, it continues to display an indifference bordering upon negligence to the existential threat to itself. President Zardari's bungling and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif's irrational ambitions brought a welcome relief to the jihadi apparatus at the precise moment when the noose around it looked like tightening.

Pakistan: The Threat Within

Faced with exasperated foreign demands to take effective action against jihadi militants, Pakistani officials and media commentators routinely give an equally infuriating reply that the country is itself the biggest victim of terrorism. It is time to examine the nature of the jihadi threat.

Moment of Truth for Pakistan's Elected Government

To the disadvantage of the elected government in Pakistan, Mumbai has brought forward the moment of truth for the country's tentative transition to democracy. We may not have long to wait to see which way the matter settles. India too has a role to play. A diplomatic, legal and institutional approach can help pin down the culprits, and may even help the transition in Pakistan.

Find Your War, Or Risk Losing It

Pakistan can still win the war against 'jihadi' militancy without having prior political consensus, which is proving elusive, if its security forces function coherently. Victory will be surer, swifter, and achieved on terms more favourable to state sovereignty and democracy if there were agreement among the main political forces in the country.

Holding Your Nose, Keeping Your Nerve

As Pakistan's elected government struggles to find its pitch amidst escalating problems on the security, economic, political and foreign policy fronts, there is much to rattle domestic and foreign supporters of democracy in Pakistan these days. Most of the looming crises were neither unexpected nor avoidable. No one said it was going to be easy, but there really are no serious alternatives to holding your nose and keeping your nerve.


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